Plans to transform Penang into major regional commerce hub
Penang’s economy is set to thrive under a proposed Greater Penang Transformation Programme, which the Malaysian government will draw up after a four-six week ‘lab’ involving state and federal government cooperation with the private sector, and organized by Malaysia’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) and Khazanah Nasional (the Malaysian government’s investment arm).
Penang is the third-largest regional contributor to Malaysia’s GDP after Kuala Lumpur and Johor-Bahru, all of which are marked for special attention as major urban conurbations under the 10th Malaysia Plan. Penang is currently the only one of the three without its own economic master plan to identify its unique needs and sustainable growth opportunities.
Penang’s Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the state had already excelled at attracting investment, especially in electronics manufacturing, tourism, logistics and healthcare. With its strategic physical location it was “well-placed to take the big leap higher up the value chain and income bracket,” he said.
About RM17.9 billion (US$5.92 billion) has been set aside for improvements to Penang’s infrastructure and physical networks. Current projects include the Penang Bridge, building a second Penang Bridge, plus major expansions to the sea port and airport and road/railway construction. There’s also a plan to develop a Hong Kong-Kowloon style waterfront complex around Georgetown and Butterworth.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak also praised Penang and its cities, saying the transformation programme would create the “leading urban centre in the Bay of Bengal and the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Golden Triangle.”
Access and connectivity lie at the heart of Penang’s growth plans, leveraging its key position as a center for cargo and passenger traffic via air, land and sea to and from other markets just as Johor-Bahru and its Iskandar Malaysia project were doing at the other end of the country.
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